Sunday, January 31, 2010

Maivelyn and Joselyn

a sweet friendship is developing between these girls and my girls. we stopped by today to give them and their brothers backpacks and school supplies, and were welcomed with such excitement. they ran out to hug madi and brooke, and spent the next hour or so playing games, jumping rope, and goofing off.

these are the girls who recently lost their mom in an unexpected death. they now live with their aunt and uncle. i believe our paths have crossed with purpose... we'll see...

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

playground celebration, challenges the perspective...

Today we celebrated and opened the new playground in Buena Vista.


Going back about 8 months, we had a vision for this area. A couple months later, some friends came that helped start this project by building basketball goals, painting the courts and walls, and cleaning up the community center. Since then we have held basketball leagues and used the space as a distribution center for shoes, clothes, food, and Christmas gifts.

Now, with the completion of the jungle gym and swing sets, the community of Buena Vista has a complete facility for all to enjoy.

I wish I could somehow fully express the excitement level the kids had today.

Once again, my perspective was challenged. As I watched them playing with gigantic smiles and eyes that screamed their excitement, I thought about how when I was a kid this type of unit was standard issue in any park or fast food restaurant.

I thought about my own kids, and how even though they were there and having a blast, this was certainly nothing new for them. For most of the local kids, it was the first time they had ever seen, much less played on, something so cool.

They lined up and waited, pushing and shoving, to slide down the slide… and ran around to wait/push/shove/slide again. This went on for hours…

Kerrie and I are sitting here trying to put words on it. Just the craziness of how something can be so incredible to some kids, and so customary to others. A dream-come-true for one, and run-of-the-mill for another.

I don’t know… for now, all I know is that it blessed my heart to watch them play today.

i never knew how, but i prayed...

today kerrie and i were visiting 12x12 families (who have received homes through the ministry). as we hung out with one of them, the mom's eyes became red and swelled up with tears. she was overcome with emotion. completely out of the context of the current conversation, she blurted out:

"i have to say something. i am so grateful for my home. i don't have words to say how thankful i am. i have prayed often for a home, but never knew how it could be possible. i never knew how, but i prayed. we have never made enough money to save 1 cent, even when we are all working. but i have prayed."

in tears, she hugged me, then kerrie. i was able to get my emotions in check and explain to her how much we love Jesus, and how God is so good. its all i could think of to say. we explained how it is such a blessing for us to be able to help... how giving always tops receiving!

what was especially neat about this was the fact that this woman has been very shy and stand-offish with us. always nice and cordial, but from a distance.

praise God. i am so thankful for his blessing on the 12x12 love project and the home building ministry. it has truly been amazing to watch Him at work in it all.

Monday, January 25, 2010

playground installation underway

the AWESOME playground was delivered today to buena vista. wow. thanks to all of you who caught the vision and made donations in order to make this happen. we will finish installation of the slides and swing-sets tomorrow, and we're planning a grand opening party for wednesday afternoon, giving all of the cement time to dry before the charge of BV kids.

i enjoyed sitting back today and watching the eyeballs, the reactions from all of the kids as each piece of the playground was unveiled.

imagine living in this type of poverty all your life and then seeing a jungle gym that you've never fathomed installed practically in your backyard. their reactions were as such. it was a beautiful thing to see.

looking forward to wednesday... will keep you posted.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

merrill lynch family

word of the 12x12 love project reached some merrill lynch executives just before christmas. they put together a campaign and were able to raise enough money for 2, maybe 3, homes for families in guatemala!

this is very short video was made for them. its a tour through the home of a potential family, so they can see the conditions, meet the people, etc...

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

family we met

visited a family yesterday. the ramos lopez fam. mom, dad, and 5 kids living in a mud and cornstalk box towards the top of Buena Vista. the mom, Vicenta, had a sister that passed away a couple months ago (unexpectedly) leaving several young kids behind. 2 of the girls (Visenta's nieces) now live with her: Maivelyn 7, and Joselyn 11.

the 2 nieces are precious. the whole family is precious. my heart breaks for the 2 girls who lost their mom. they seem happy. they were thrilled to have visitors, and quickly became attached to my daughters Madi and Brooke.

definitely feeling led to help this family. i have been thinking about them a lot. they are an obvious candidate for a 12x12 home considering their living conditions. but my heart tells me there are going to be other ways too...

one pic is of the outside of their home, the other of the inside. below jake's elbow is Joselyn, and next to Brooke on the bed is Maivelyn.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Esbin update

Esbin update: after the last monthly update was sent out last week, we immediately had $1,160 come in for Esbin's rehabilitation plan! we are only short $150 on the next 6 weeks of dental work and physical therapy.

praise GOD! thank you to those of you who responded!

this morning Esbin had 2 more teeth taken out, and another cleaning done. so far he has had 3 cleanings and 5 teeth extractions.

after the dentist appointment we went to see his physical therapist. the meeting went fantastic! we are working with them directly to help develop a better physical therapy plan.

slowly but hopefully surely we are going to get Esbin well. please pray for him with us!


we had a 6.0 earthquake today in guatemala. no fatalities that i know of, but our house shook pretty hard. even the locals evacuated their homes. about 2 hours later, we had another one a little bit lighter...

crazy how/why these things happen. obviously it makes us think about Haiti and all that they are going through. listened to a great john piper clip on this very thought today...

praying for those who are suffering in Haiti. may God somehow turn disaster into glory for himself.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

ruth's stove

one of the major health issues in this area is because of 24/7 fires burning in the homes. the mom's and the kids breathe in the smoke all day long. i am convinced that people die of lung cancer at young ages having never known what killed them.

donated by the jackson family, we are almost finished building a much safer & healthier stove (with chimney) in the juarez home. praying God will bless this gift and use it to improve/preserve the health of this beautiful family.

guate life

today was a long, productive day.

although, what took 9 hours probably could have taken 3... if i didn't live in rural guatemala. not complaining! i loved every minute of it. not only is it hard & honest work, but it also reminds me how creative, resourceful, and hardworking people can be when they don't have other options.

the day's project was to lay a 16x14 ft cement foundation for the new playground. the day consisted of shoveling truckloads of sand and rock, mixing cement, walking 5 gallon buckets of water to fill burn barrels, and driving back and forth doing it all over again several times.

by 5:00 we had finished. we hired a couple guys to stay on the jobsite (all night) to make sure no kids mess with anything until it dries. tomorrow do the finishing touches, and hopefully by the end of the week we'll have a new, huge, amazing playground for the kids of Buena Vista.

Saturday, January 16, 2010


Salmo has stopped by my house numerous times since we moved into Magdalena 11 months ago. every time he has asked me for a house.

responding to the knocks at the door for houses has become difficult. there seems to be no "right way" to respond, other than simply trust the holy spirit to lead in each situation. sometimes God puts a feeling inside my gut that hints "no" or "yes" or "maybe." other times i just explain the process. and sometimes i just say "ok, lets go see your home." that is what happened with Salmo yesterday.

he was so excited to take me to his home. i could tell, he was thinking "finally i got something other that the run-of-the-mill answer!" turns out, Salmo and i are practically neighbors. his house is on the corner of my street, about a 60 second walk.

rough situation. 6 kids, 1 who is married and has 2 of his own. all 11 of them crammed into a dark, dirty, tiny dwelling.

when Salmo introduced me to his baby, a 1 yr old boy, the excitement on his face struck me. as he held up his son, smiling ear to ear, he kissed him on the cheek 3 or 4 times. it was sweet. having not seen too many guatemalan men show this type of affection to their kids, it definitely caught my attention.

i woke up thinking about Salmo today.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

neighbors vs. gringo missionaries

we just want to be your neighbors.

although it is almost impossible, that is our goal. we long for friendships, meaningful conversations (without agendas), and deeper relationships. this is our ministry style. but when we are the "gringos who build houses" or the "americanos who bring mission teams to give out stuff" it makes it harder to connect in the deeper way that we desire.

it's not anyone's fault, and there's no easy solution. we are here to meet physical needs as well as spiritual, so we're not going to stop blessing people with homes and other necessities just to remove that variable. we just pray that people will somehow, by the power of God, see past it and be willing to open up to real friendship without secretly wanting something material from us. we do have great examples of this, and we celebrate them.

i certainly can't blame the locals. i'd probably do the same thing. for many, we are their once in a lifetime shot at a home, electricity, or running water.

i have no solutions to offer today...just journaling my thoughts.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

esbin's rotten grill

esbin is our little bud from Buena Vista with the neurological disease. if you've been here, you probably visited and prayed for esbin. (past blogs will fill you in more.)

today jake and i took esbin and his mom to some more doctor visits. we had blood tests done, and also an exhaustive dental consultation. in order for esbin to get well he has to start a nutrition program. the problem is, he can't eat solid foods because his mouth is completely rotten.

following the exam, we were told of the bare minimum needs:
-9 extractions
-13 cavities filled
-2 root canals
-2 restorations

and before the dentist will begin, 4 cleanings are needed just to remove tarter help the gums and teeth get to the point where they are prepared for the work.

we put together a dental plan and have standing appointments every monday for the next 5 months. 20 visits are necessary to complete the work. we are praying for financial help to get this done! click here for more details.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

nice work day

us boys (me, jake, mark, isaac, and eli) spent the day working on the 12x12 jobsites. great time. not that shoveling dirt all day is a blast in and of itself, but cutting up and goofing off with the construction guys is priceless. i love 12x12 work days.

being on the jobsite is also a great way to spend time with the families we are building for. as we're working i like to watch them - to get a feel for how their daily life works. today, maria cooked chow mein for the entire crew! on top of that, kerrie and gina brought sandwiches... so we were all full bellied for the afternoon push.

it was all fun and games until jake got smacked in the head from a shovel dropping into the ditch he was working in. no biggie... a few tears shed and we rubbed some dirt on it.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

best birthday i've ever had

dec 31st was my birthday. it was also the day that we threw a party in Buena Vista celebrating the 2009 blessings of the 12x12 Love Project home-building ministry.

every family we have built a home for (going back to sep 08) attended. 19 families so far, including the 2 that are currently under construction. also in attendance were the families of the 6 full-time construction workers on staff, as well as the jackson family, our friends visiting from the U.S.

we served and american meal including fresh burgers from McDonalds. the idea behind that was that we wanted to give special thanks to the families and support from the US that keeps the sponsored homes coming... plus the locals have never had anything like it before so we thought it would be fun for them to enjoy an american meal.

everyone attended. they laughed, played, ate, shared, prayed, and mingled. for me personally, it was nothing short of breathtaking. at one point as i looked around, it felt like time stood completely still. it was as if - for a split second in time - the poverty, problems, and challenges within the lives of these families had disappeared. for a few hours, no one had any worries.

several times throughout the event i was fighting back tears. after i shared some remarks, several people came up to the microphone and said such wonderful things. i was shocked at how many people chose to come forward and share. it was extremely special.

romelo had donated pinatas for the kids, and as the kids played i watched the parents laughing. when it was my turn to put on the blindfold, blanca suzanna laughed uncontrollably as i did karate moves against the pinata. blanca is a young girl who comes from a horrifying upbringing of abuse. she is very slow to show emotion...

after the party, every family lined up to hug me and wish me a happy birthday. while i never intended the day to bring any attention to myself, it sure filled me up as i received hugs and kisses from these special people. we have a unique and special friendship with each family, and seeing them all together in one place truly helped me put in perspective how special the relationships are that we have, as well as remind me of the amount of work that has been done in a short time.

after the party we delivered a pila (sink for washing clothes) to a family who had no water. the jackson's had given this to them as a gift. we hooked up their pipes and installed the pila, then we hustled home for showers. off to dinner in the city (another treat from the jackson family), and returned home for new years eve fireworks...

an extremely special day - a birthday i will never forget.