Sunday, April 5, 2020

missionaries and coronavirus

i am so thankful for our financial support team. since the coronavirus pandemic began, to my knowledge we have not lost any financial support. thank you friends, and thank you Jesus!

i also want to take a quick opportunity to speak on behalf of our entire BVSA missionary team. for the last couple weeks, i have been on the phone for the majority of each day with our missionaries in different countries.  they are all navigating their own situations with tremendous faith and courage.

from a missionary standpoint, today's circumstances are unique in their own right.  not only are missionaries impacted financially like everyone else, but they are also navigating the uncertainties of third-world medical care & governments, complicated food distribution and broken financial systems.  meanwhile - and most importantly - embracing the big opportunities that "tragedies" create in opening hearts to the gospel.  

and don't forget that missionaries are also making decisions on how to best care for their own families too.  when you add it all up, it can certainly increase stress levels.  which leads me back to my point.  your continued support - both financially and prayerfully - serves as a MAJOR encouragement to missionaries during these crazy times.

we know the current situation is having an economic impact on everyone.  if your support of missionaries, and the great commission of Jesus, is a greater sacrifice at this time, you can be certain that God receives and uses it in greater measure.  

as you support faithfully during this season of financial instability, may Christ be blessed like he was by the widow who gave sacrificially in luke 21.



Sunday, March 29, 2020

from florida to africa... and back

it's been slightly 2 months since we arrived in west africa. now we're back stateside. what is going on!

i have such mixed feelings. when my head hit the pillow that first night - after a straight 24hrs of travel - my mind was swirling.

on one hand:  so thankful that God cleared the way for us to get back (too many stories to tell here). thankful to see our son and pablo, who have been uprooted from their universities. and thankful that God has shown us time and time again that it's his will for us to be here.

on the other hand:  oddly enough, i miss africa already. we had gotten "over the hump" of some tough initial challenges. luci absolutely loved her school as well as her friend next door.  we were growing and improving in our french classes, and making new friends too. we were making progress.  our house had become our home.  to be honest, we were starting to really like it there. all God!

when coronavirus hit, returning to the states wasn't even a thought. as time went on, the US was getting more and more cases while africa was seeming to avoid it all together.

but potential issues with our visa status were brought to our attention. the impact of coronavirus had closed offices and procedures that we needed to get done before our tourist visas expired. after digging into it and ultimately acquiring legal counsel, we were warned that even though coronavirus was the cause, local authorities are very stringent in this area and there was no sign that they would give a grace period to those who were caught in the middle. we were advised that a permanent stain on our visa status could be detrimental to our future initiatives over the long term.

after discussing with our board, and our missionary team across other locations, that's when we looked into flight options out. departing and re-entering would automatically re-set our tourist visa, and allow us to get back and help our son and pablo navigate things in the meantime. with help from family using skymiles, we booked tickets one week out.

but thats when panic in our country, not to mention around the world, began to ensue. the virus had reached africa, and our west african country was one of the hardest hit. the president eventually shut down all schools, public gatherings, international flights, etc. we were told that our flight, still almost one week away, would almost certainly be cancelled. the US embassy arranged emergency charter flight evacuations for US citizens in the country immediately.

as we prayed through all of this, God overwhelmed us with peace. we continued moving about our lives in africa, going out to shop and prepare. not knowing if we'd be able to fly out, or be in longterm lockdown in africa, we semi-prepared for both. we felt the Lord allowed us to view it in a simple way that provided us a lot of peace: if our flight holds, we'll go... and if its cancelled, we'll stay.

after several more twists and turns, our flight ultimately departed. a smooth travel day with minimal inconveniences... and just like that we're back in florida.

amazingly, i woke up to 2 emails from the embassy. the first saying that no more flights for US citizens are available. ours had been the last one.  the second, that all visa/residency immigration services are cancelled indefinitely and US citizens are basically at the mercy of local government decisions regarding visa status.

such sweet confirmations!  as we continue abiding in the Lord daily, enjoying his presence and his faithfulness, we look forward to His purposes in bringing us back during this time.

we're thankful that our french classes are moving to an online format so we can continue progressing with the language.  thankful that luci's school in africa is doing the same.

here we are Lord, sanctify and renew us, and use us however you see fit.  and please let us know when you are ready for us to return to africa.  we remain excited to return to the purpose, and the life, that we left there.



Saturday, March 21, 2020

christians & corona

the practical measures regarding coronavirus are our responsibility, and we should take necessary precautions. but even more important is our reaction to the situation as Christians. we must stay in our bibles, praying, and worshipping. we must ABIDE in Him! scripture gives us much to lean on in times like this.

while its tempting to get caught up in the hysteria, as Christians we are called to be set apart. we're called to be salt and light in a world that is tasteless and dark. how much more-so in times like these! our confidence and peace comes from knowing that ALL POWER AND AUTHORITY ON HEAVEN AND ON EARTH HAS BEEN GIVEN TO JESUS (Matt 28:18), and even the wind and the seas obey him (Mark 4:41)!!!

for Christians, moments like this bring big opportunities! 1 peter 3:14-15 tells us that when we "fear not" it will open up opportunities to tell people where our hope lies. we do that by showing peace in the chaos, confidence in His sovereignty, genuine belief in His promises, and valuing the advancement of the gospel higher than protecting our own life.

during this ordeal, we should be asking questions like:
  • how can this be used for the glory of Jesus? 
  • how can it be used to point others to Jesus?
  • how can it be used in my conversations with family, friends, neighbors, and even strangers?
  • how might God use this to strengthen my relationship with him, and for my own sanctification?
  • how can i serve people who are in greater need than myself during this time?
  • who do i know living/serving in other countries where unstable governments and poor economies make things even more complicated? how can i be intentional and strategic about caring for them and praying for them?
most of all, lets ask God to make himself known to ALL peoples in ALL nations, at ALL costs, and bring glory to himself through all of this.


Monday, March 9, 2020

we need your help!

UPDATE:  SINCE THE TIME OF THIS POST ALL OF OUR GUATEMALA RHINOS HAVE BEEN SPONSORED.  

ONLY 2 HONDURAS RHINOS REMAIN IN NEED OF A SPONSOR.

hello Rhino friends, family, and supporters:

we need your help!  

between our Guatemala and Honduras academies, we still have 30+ boys that need sponsored.

the Rhinos Sponsorship Program helps cover all of the Rhino's needs throughout the year.
for $40 per month (or $480 per year), your Rhino receives:

  • a nutritious meal every day
  • unlimited pure drinking water (not such an easy thing in Guatemala)
  • all necessary hygiene care
  • all the resources of our soccer and education programs

even better than that, we will make sure you and your Rhino get connected and STAY connected.
~ you'll receive a refrigerator magnet to remember to pray for your Rhino(s)...
~ you'll receive pictures, videos, and letters from your Rhino throughout the year...
~ and you are welcome to write and communicate with your Rhino as often as you like!

the RELATIONSHIP side of this program is what the Rhinos love the most. just to feel loved and know they are cared for, and prayed for, can truly be a life changing thing for them. by sponsoring a Rhino, you become another key voice in their life by which they can hear the gospel, and receive the love of Jesus.

would you consider sponsoring a Rhino?  
Go to https://www.bvboys.com/rhino-sponsorship/ for more information and to see who is still available.  


Thursday, February 20, 2020

one month in west africa

today marks one month. it hasn't been an easy, but we're good and things are looking up!

out of tears
emotions have been all over the place.  not gonna lie, we spent the first couple weeks crying a lot!  not only was the situation here pretty hard, but we couldn't stop thinking of our kids. each of them (and new son-in-laws) are in new/different seasons of their lives, and we wanted to be close to all of them.  we're also missing the friends and fam that we deeply enjoyed during our year stateside. 

while we knew God was bringing that sweet season to a close, we felt pretty miserable for a while once reality actually set in.

on top of that, no running water, no AC, a rough apartment, no language skills - and no clue what to do about any of it - left us struggling for sure.  thankfully much of that eventually got dealt with, and we began settling in. 

where's our meter?
for the most part, we didn't have running water for our first 5 days here. we finally were able to get a cistern and water pump installed and we thought our major water problems were over. until 2 days ago... when the water company came and took our water meter (literally cut the pipe and removed it!).  they shut us off, saying the bill in this apartment hadn't been paid in 5 years. 5 years?!  (of course i only figured all of this out after numerous trips up and down the stairs, calling translators, and finally sitting with our security guard navigating google translate.)  and i still wasn't positive! lol.  

so...  another couple days without water, borrowing from nice neighbors, etc... but praise God it all got sorted out quickly and we got the meter returned.  thank you Jesus.

je ne parle pas frances
french class is hard, but its been good. we are enjoying our teachers and classmates. it's 4.5 hours per day - so definitely information overload! it's a totally different method than we did with spanish, but really interesting. instead of using a book, curriculum, learning conjugations and memorizing verbs, the first 100-150 hours is only listening.  then you start to listen and repeat - similar to recreating how a baby/child learns their native tongue

phase 2 then gets into speaking and forming sentences, etc, but still no reading or academic learning. it's called the GPA approach for language acquisition.  anyway, we are learning... petit a petit... :)

luci happier than ever
one of the most incredible things about this move is how much luci LOVES it here. her joy hasn't dipped at all since we arrived. hasn't cried once. hasn't complained once. its all God. otherwise it makes no sense. we left her sisters, brother, mimi and papa, all family and friends...  and she is the happiest we've ever seen her.  we praise God for this EVERY DAY. honestly, if she were miserable, crying coming home from school, etc - on top of everything else - i don't know if i could do it.

wonder woman
my wife is incredible.  she always toughens up and says "yes" to whatever God has for us, whatever the cost. and she's always willing to follow me as i follow Christ.

this last month has been spiritual "game on"... and my wife is a gamer!  my heart smiles as she dives in... struggling to get a taxi, shop the markets, and read food labels.  she's a totally different person than when we did this 12 years ago in guatemala.

just like then, her world has been turned upside down.  her friends, family and comforts of home stripped away. a true woman of God, she leans into Him fully, and He sustains her joy.  up early every morning spending sweet time with Jesus, she gets refilled by the Living Water.  i'm so proud to be the husband of this amazing woman. 


grateful for bigger reasons
i am truly grateful. not only do we get to "pioneer" another academy and remain committed to the call to the unreached people group we've been called to... but God is also reminding us how hard mission work is - especially in the beginning.

which reminds us how important "missionary care" is.  it was a big topic of conversation for us while we were stateside, and its being reinforced during this tough season.  we want to be good at taking care of our missionaries. we don't want them to get so overwhelmed that they quit.  we want them to endure over the long-term.  a soft landing in the field is helpful, not like the one we're dealing with now. we want them to feel supported, cared for, have a team, and ideally a community.

the wehmeyer's will be joining us here late this summer. we're thankful that we'll have some basic things sorted out by the time they get here. it will be a softer landing for them and their 2 little babies.

most of all, its good to suffer for a while 
i'm not claiming to be suffering in any mighty way.  but its good for me to be humbled.  its a blessing to be uncomfortable.  

and its good for us to be the "newbies" again.  wandering aimless and clueless, and sounding like 2-years olds when we talk. 

its good (even though i hate it) to feel scared for my family's safety, nervous to run a simple errand, dirty and sweaty all the time, and feeling helpless and intimidated in basic situations. 

it strips me of my rights and exposes my control issues. it reveals the needy, and smug, american in me.  it illuminates my sin. ultimately forcing my full dependence on Jesus.  

it helps me die to myself, probably the most underrated and disobeyed command of Christ. 

its a painful process, but i am so thankful for it.  it sharpens me, making me a better warrior for the kingdom.  not to mention better husband, father, and man.  but best of all it leads to deep sanctification and intimacy with God.

my morning abiding (time with Jesus, in the bible, in prayer, and in worship) has been sweeter than ever this last month. when i abide well, He puts it all in perspective. 

times like these can easily be mistaken for the worst days (flesh perspective) when in reality they are the best days of my life (kingdom perspective).  

1 peter 5:10, romans 5:3-5

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

cesar's new bed

it is such a blessing to be a part of this man's life.  cesar garcia - a hero and mentor in my life. he sets the bar high for what it looks like to truly follow and walk with Jesus.  i am often convicted by the Lord's voice reminding me to consider cesar...  his steadfastness...  his abiding habits...  his patience, endurance, and his perspective.

like training in sports, it's always good to have people around us who are ahead of us. it helps to have real life examples to look to and learn from.  we need that as christians, too.  for me, cesar is certainly one of those people.

which is one of the reasons it is such a privilege to be a blessing to him and his family.  with the help of a friend who wishes to stay anonymous, we were able to get an orthopedic, adjustable bed brought in for cesar. at the touch of a button, he can adjust the angles of his back and legs. not only does this help reduce pain, but also assists with therapy.

he and his wife andrea voice texted me in the middle of the night thursday, the first night sleeping in the new bed. they were emotional because it was truly helping cesar rest.  it was was one of the sweetest messages i've ever heard!

there is an awesome story about how this all came to fruition, but i will save that for my anonymous friend to tell as he chooses.  to that friend:  thank you for hearing the Lord's voice and responding immediately!

and thank you dr. carlos for being that guy who's always willing to jump in and help get a project  done.

love and miss you amigo checha!!!


Saturday, February 8, 2020

so hard, but so good, to go through this again

leaving our home for school
my stomach has been cramping for days- sometimes stopping me in my tracks. i'm tired. a ten-day headache lingers on.

we have been in west africa for two and a half weeks. not going to lie... it’s been hard.  we we're supposed to be "veterans"!!!  lol...

i remember
12 years ago we did this in guatemala.  we landed in a new country, new culture and started a new life.  with no language, no sending organization, and no "team", it was just us.  me, my wife, and our 3 young kids - just trying to figure things out.

i remember feeling helpless. worthless. scared. inept. humbled. i literally remember pretending to be confident and strong for my family's sake... while whispering desperation prayers to Jesus all day, and crying through my prayers at night.

i remember my wife crying. a lot. i remember her telling me she didn't like herself: that her former identities such as "super-mom" and "women’s bible-study leader" – even “friend” and “daughter” and “neighbor” – had all been stripped away and she hated what she found underneath.  i knew exactly what she meant... i was going through something similar myself.

i remember my kids coming home from school and crying, saying they didn't understand a single word, and that all the kids laughed at them every time they spoke.

but i also remember...
bonding with my family more deeply than I had ever imagined possible.  we experienced things with God and with each other that shaped us into who we are as a family to this day.

i remember how sweet the joys, and how exhilarating the victories.

most importantly, i remember how close i felt to Jesus in those moments of desperation and dependence.

when it takes full dependence on God just to run a simple errand, it does wonders for your sanctification!

when you are humbled to the point of losing your 1) comforts and conveniences, 2) past identity, 3) ability to communicate, 4) any chance for a routine, and 5) all your friends, family, and home church… you either quit, or you grow fast.

as christians, suffering shapes us.  our best growth comes by fire (romans 5:3, 2 cor 12:10), and the process brings you closer to Jesus than ever before.  it’s always worth it!

thankful
and THAT is where i am today.

there are moments already where i’ve wanted to quit.  i've had a few situations where my chest swells up and my breathing turns to short breaths.  or my stomach ties up in knots...  and i start justifying reasons why it makes more sense to not do this after all.

in the midst of all that, my time with Jesus is extraordinary.  it fills me so much, I feel like I could explode.

i can’t read scripture or worship without tearing up.  His faithfulness showers me – completely flooding my heart.  it’s remarkable, hard to explain.  best thing ever.  words of life, ministering to my soul.  more than “reading” them, I hear them, I feel them, my soul drinks them up.  living water!

my stomach pain is still there. i’m always tired. my ten-day headache lingers on.

but I hear your voice Jesus. and there’s no other place I want to be.