Saturday, September 13, 2008

juan daniel, and so many more

Imagine this… You get pregnant as a young teenager. There is no way you can tell your family, especially your father. You are poor and live in a third world country, making the option of abortion impossible. So you live with a friend for nine months, deliver the baby, and the day he is born you toss him into a ditch on the side of the road. He is left to die. Problem solved.

Unimaginable? Sadly, this is commonplace in Guatemala. It is to Guatemalans what abortion is to North Americans. A solution to the inconveniences that come with having a child.

But in the case of Juan Daniel ("Danny", pictured with me here), God had other plans. A local couple was on a walk and discovered the 2-day old boy, barely alive, and took him to the fire station. The fire station got him to the hospital, and soon he was placed in the court system. About 3 weeks later, a judge would give him a name and place him in an orphanage.

Unlike most abandoned Guatemalan children, Danny was placed in a small, family-like orphanage with loving Christian parents. Today, I hold this miracle child in my arms, and take great joy in making him chuckle as I tickle the chub under his chin.

Today, we have the blessing of overseeing a small orphanage, and providing the owner’s family a much needed day off. Each baby (all under 5 months) has its own story of abandonment, similar to that of Danny. Unloved by their moms and dads, but perfectly loved by their Father in heaven.

As we consider our own struggles today – work, busy schedules, the market crash, health, finances, etc – let us not forget those whose concerns are far greater. Our brothers, sisters, and children around the world are literally dying on the side of the road.

I thank God today for the opportunity to serve him, and these children.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

the need to redefine safety

Lately we have been reminded that we’re not in Kansas anymore.

Here are a few things we have been told, and learned for ourselves, during our first month in Guatemala:

1. Don’t get lost. There are several places you should never go, some of which are very close to the main areas and easy to accidentally end up in.

2. Lock your car doors and travel in groups. Car jackings are every day occurrences here. Men with guns force you from your car, stealing it as well as all your belongings. This happens in broad daylight and on main public roads.

3. Tint your windows. There is an assumption that North Americans have money, so the chances of being robbed go up dramatically once the thief sees you are not Guatemalan.

4. When you get robbed, do not resist. Typically when people are injured or killed in a robbery it is because they fought back.

5. Do not trust the police. They are corrupt, involved in criminal activities, and in cahoots with the criminals and banking institutions.

6. Do not trust the banks. Don’t withdraw or deposit large amounts of money.

7. Do not us the same ATMs frequently or develop any predictable patterns.

8. Don’t wear jewelry, watches, Ipods, expensive shoes, or high-end clothing. All of these items help the criminals make assumptions.

9. You can do everything right, and still get nabbed.

10. Don't live in fear. (Gee, thanks!)

In addition, here are some recent happenings familiar to us:

~Our neighbor was recently car-jacked on the major road leading into San Cristobal, a road we travel on each day. She was forced from the car by 4 men with guns.

~A teacher at CAG (where the kids go to school) was recently robbed by a man with a gun. She was walking directly in front of the school last Saturday when it happened. She was alone and carrying a purse.

~Last weekend, one of the security guards protecting our neighborhood was intoxicated, entered a residence and threatened the mother and children with his gun. The owner put out notices to all of us warning us not to trust the guards.

~UPDATE: 3 days ago (now 9/25) the father of some classmates of our kid's (one 3rd grader and one middle schooler) was kidnapped while shopping at Cemaco (a hardware store we shop at regularly). We don't know a lot of details regarding the reason, and can only speculate that in some way he appeared to be (financially) worth kidnapping. The missionary community has been praying for his return and PRAISE GOD he was returned today. We don't know any other details at this time, except that his family is leaving the country today for a 2 week break.

Unfortunately these stories continue. My intention is not to scare/worry anyone regarding our safety (or discourage anyone from visiting us!). Nor did I write this to falsely pat ourselves on the back for “living dangerously” or “suffering for Jesus.” I am only trying to be honest about the reality we are in, and ultimately bring glory to God as he uses us to accomplish his work in Guatemala.

This is where we are. This is where God wants us to be. This is our reality. Sometimes we get scared, and other times we are brave. Sometimes we are paranoid, and other times we are too carefree. But most importantly, we are learning to seek HIM in balancing and discerning these feelings. There are times I consider whether or not living here is worth the risk. Anytime I (or we, as a family) seek Jesus on this topic we come away with an overwhelming is worth the risk, without question, absolutely.

A couple nights ago I was tucking Brooke in, and she told me that sometimes she wants to move back to the states. When I asked why, she said, “because we never had to worry about being safe.” In the quiet of her room, her comment echoed loudly and I heard it over and over again. Because we never had to worry about being safe.

Interestingly, I am realizing how naive I am to think we are any safer in north Florida than we are here. To believe so would be to presume that my worldly-wise decision making can trump God's control. I know this perspective annoys the common sense, practical thinker. But it's frustrating to me when Christians are quick to make (or point out) the "smart choice", or the safe decision - while unintentionally discouraging others who have been called by God to throw some caution to the wind. My bible speaks of few who chose this safe, practical route, yet is littered with radicals who took jesus literally, and even followed him to the death. The "decision making process" of such heroes would today be considered mentally unstable and require treatment and meds.

To be clear, I am not saying that, statistically, living in the 10/40 window is no more dangerous than living in Harvey, North Dakota. What I am declaring is that when following Jesus, it is necessary to reevaluate the concept of safety. Because if everything the bible says is true, a reckless, unstable life devoted to bringing the hope of jesus to the ends of the earth, and even a premature death, is actually much "safer" than a long, healthy, prosperous life of spiritual idleness.

...keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness...we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies... 2 Thess 3:6-15

...I know you're works, that you are neither hot or cold... because you are lukewarm, I will spit you out of my mouth. For you say I am rich, I have prospered, I need nothing - not realizing you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind, and naked... Rev 3:15-22

So, what is safety? I have drafted my own personal definition.

Safety: To realize my life on earth is but a vapor; to be willing to give it fully (not partially) to the cause of bringing the hope & love of jesus to all, even at the "risk" of all things worldly including comfort, wealth, success, personal safety, and reputation; to pursue bringing the kingdom of heaven to earth with every thing I have, in anticipation of hearing the words "well done faithful servant." And In doing this, securing a place in eternity with my heavenly father, creator, lord, and king.

For me, this is the safest bet.

Regarding Brooke's comments in bed the other night, I assured her that I understood her feelings, and at times feel exactly the same way. But it has lead to some great conversation within our family about why we're here. Not just why we're here in Guatemala, but here in this life.

We concluded, collectively, that we have never felt closer to God than we do now, and that is a beautiful place to be.

If not certain this is exactly where God called us, I’d probably have my family on the next plane. But he has been clear in showing me that he is ahead of us, and our job is to keep following. He has our back. He is God, and he deserves our willingness to do anything for his glory!

Thank you to all of our partners – prayer partners, financial partners, friends and family. Always know that we pray for all of you and love you very much. If I could ask for a specific prayer for me, pray that I can remain steady with the passion that I have on this day. I realize how weak and sinful I am, and fear that my perspective today can slip and weaken tomorrow. Please God, give me steadfastness.